Backpacker tax will be a slug on tourism

CAREFREE: German backpackers  at Rainbow Beach. They are just some of the 100,000 visitors who pass through the Gympie region each year.
CAREFREE: German backpackers at Rainbow Beach. They are just some of the 100,000 visitors who pass through the Gympie region each year. Craig Warhurst

THE latest parliamentary twist in the backpacker tax debate could cause a dive in Gympie region tourism dollars if backpackers are left holding the dreaded 32.5% hike.

Labor last week moved to back an even lower 10.5% tax, introduced by Independent Senator Jacqui Lambie, meaning the government's proposed compromise of 19% - widely accepted by farming and tourism industry representatives earlier this year - could be defeated in Parliament, leaving the 32.5% rate to kick in on January 1 next year.

With an industry that draws up to 100,000 backpackers a year to the Gympie region, manager of Destination Gympie Region Andrew Saunders believes the effects could be devastating.

"I think it's a somewhat short-sighted revenue grab from the tourism industry and it's something that can do a great damage to not only this region but Australia-wide," Mr Saunders said.

"You can never underestimate the economic impact of the backpacking market."

Mr Saunders said Rainbow Beach, alongside Noosa, is one of the leading tourism drawcards in South East Queensland, which filters through to other Gympie region areas.

"The impact is not just confined to the more popular backpacker destinations; some of the backpackers distribute through regional areas to take on harvest or seasonal work," he said.

"If they feel it's not worth it they just won't do it."

Further north, chairman of Bundaberg Fruit and Vegetable Growers Allan Mahoney said the fallout to the tourism and agricultural industry would cost millions.

"There's only two weeks left in the year to solve the problem - we want them to just pass the 19% so that we can get on with business."

Opposition agriculture spokesman Joel Fitzgibbon argued his party was doing the right thing by Australian farmers; choosing 10.5% because it matches the New Zealand rate in the hope "it will restore our natural competitiveness".

Topics:  backpacker tax government gympie region rainbow beach tourism

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